All posts by Mitch Mitchell

I'm an independent consultant in many fields, so I have a lot to share.

Interview With Brian D. Hawkins Of Hot Blog Tips

I’ve known Brian for quite a few years now, and these days I’m part of the weekly Google Hangout series and the weekly newsletters we put out along with Sheryl Loch; we’ll have an interview with her one day as soon as she gets around to it. He’s been in the blogging and online game for a much longer time than almost anyone I know, and is probably one of the most genuine guys I know online. If you ever see the blooper video Scott Craighead created you’ll know what I mean. Enjoy this interview and learn from it as well:

1. What was the inspiration for Hot Blog Tips?

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It was a cool domain name. Seriously, that was the original inspiration. I was collecting domains for some reason and I found HotBlogTips.com was available for registration. I registered it and started a quick blog with the intention to flip it. I sold the blog yet I found it in my lap again a little over a year later. It wasn’t long before Hot Blog Tips became my primary focus and I haven’t looked back since. More on that in question #3 so don’t stop reading.

2. You’ve owned a lot of domains and had content on lots of them. Was there a strategy behind that and is it something you’d ever recommend to anyone else?

Yes and no. The strategy was based in several layers. First, I believed, and still do, that we need several streams of online income. Second, I was playing the AdSense blog game. While I still recommend multiple forms of income, AdSense blogging, at least the way I was going about it, is dead. There is still a lot of money in niche blogging for those willing to learn how to do it right.

Back to the question, was there a strategy behind that; back when I had safe lists, forums and traffic sites, some might call it throwing mud on the walls to see what sticks; others might say it was more like twisting in the wind without focus or direction. With that said, I managed to profit from every one of those. In fact, my partner from eleven years ago still makes a very nice income from those same types of sites today.

3. You mentioned in one of our Hangouts On Air that you gave up blogging at one point but felt compelled to come back to it. Tell us about that.

Sure, when I had several blogs running and began seeing a little income from internet marketing, AdSense blogs and one of my membership sites, I decided to follow the money rather than my passion. I sold a couple of my blogs and focused on generating income. After a year of “work” I found myself spending a lot of time on other blogs wishing I still had my own. I had Hot Blog Tips parked for while by the time Google took a huge bite from my income and I decided to take that as a sign and brought the blog back to life.

4. Why do you think some people get into blogging and only last a month or two while others, like us, can last for years?

I heard a wise man once say because blogging is hard. lol It really is true though, blogging has to get into our blood to make it worth our time and energy. Without the passion, the blog dies a slow death.

The other reason, I think, is that people come into blogging and other forms of online business with unrealistic expectations. They think because it’s online, or they’re doing it from home, that everything will be easy and they won’t have to put in a lot of work. Once they get a taste of late nights trying to drive traffic, creating content, learning SEO and all of the other things required, they go back to barbeques and nightclubs or wherever they spent their time before the notion of online income occurred to them. Just a theory. lol

5. You are one of the most visible people online yet you have a full time job as well. How do you find the time to do it all and does it mean you don’t have any other hobbies?

It’s funny; I just spent the last month on a 30 day challenge just to get enough sleep for a change. 😉 And just this week, I’ve listened to three separate podcasts by Pat Flynn on productivity hoping to get more out of the time I have. So, truthfully, time is something I’m struggling with myself so I’m probably not the best person to ask.

With that said, I do manage to keep the ball rolling and that’s with 12 hour days, five days a week driving a truck locally. I spend most of the time that’s left at home on the computer when I’m not with family. It’s all about making the time to do what we enjoy and I enjoy blogging. I’ve never been one to go to the bars, watch sports with the boys or sit at a friend’s house for hours on end so my “personal” life doesn’t really get in the way of blogging. Outside of family, blogging and social media is my personal life. How sad is that? Lol I have no other hobbies to speak of but I do find time to ride my bike when weather permits and read a little each day.

6. Since I mentioned our weekly Google Hangouts On Air, what made you think about the idea and how surprised were you that Sheryl and I decided to come along for the ride?

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I’m not sure where the idea came from, really. I think I mentioned it to Sheryl, or maybe it was even her idea; I have no idea. lol Surprised? Not really but I’m very surprised how well we work together and how long it’s lasted. It’s taking a while to build that momentum but I think it’s been a fun ride at the same time.

I also think some of the benefits that slowly grow from that type of partnership would be tough for many people to see so I have to give you and Sheryl a lot of credit. I have no doubt that the videos have helped grow our overall online influence. That influence can go a long way, depending if and how we use it. I have an image I created a while back and haven’t used yet but it reads, “Authority + Trust = Influence”. The videos allow people to see what’s behind the blogger and see they can trust us and that we know what we’re talking about [cough] most of the time. With three of us working at the same goal, the word is spread much more quickly than if we go it alone. I know I got a little off topic there but that’s just what I do. 😉

7. You’ve often said you just want to be helpful to people. This is a strange way to ask this question but with all the spam we both get and the few comments our videos get, do you think people appreciate either the videos or the blog posts from most of us?

You know, I really do. We do get comments from others that say a post or video has helped but, for the most part, I think people tend to take the information and run. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t helpful or unappreciated. I’ve been guilty of that myself in the past. Now that I’ve been doing this for so long, I try to comment and let the author/speaker know it helped but I can remember a time when that would have never occurred to me. Even a how-to video on replacing a toilet wax ring or getting my car’s brakes back together, I wouldn’t have left a comment in the past. We search YouTube, find the answer and put it to use. Very few are going to think to hit the like button, much less leave a comment.

8. What is your process for writing blog posts and do you think it’s something that could work for other people?

My process… I need one of those. lol My mind works pretty crazy sometimes. It usually starts with an idea when I have no way to act on it, like driving a tractor trailer down the interstate. That’s generally a bad time to start drafting a blog post. I’ll wait until I get home and start a post draft, often with nothing but the title. That’s my way of not forgetting the post “idea” I had. Later on, I’ll go in and break my thoughts into chunks, add subtitles, find an image and start working on things like keyword research, speling <- (see that) and fact checking or research. I might publish it right away, I might save it until we record a hangout on the topic or it might sit forever if I’m not satisfied with it.

9. Time to bring this question up; do you think, if you decided to dedicate your life to it full time, that you could make a sustainable living at blogging, or being online in general?

Absolutely. If time wasn’t an issue and I could spend my days learning, networking and blogging, I’d make more money than trucking ever will. I still expect that that to happen, just at a slower pace.

So why don’t I do it already, right? That’s a question I ask myself often. I can say it’s a $150,000 mortgage, supporting five people, all of the years I’ve invested with the company I work for, and on and on. What it all boils down to is I’m just chicken. I know I could do it but I also know I’d probably risk losing everything I have by the time I could generate enough to replace my income. At this stage in my life (I’m very old), I’ll just take my time and keep what I have on the way. Like I said, chicken.

10. Let’s see how good your marketing skills are. Tell people why they should be watching our Hangouts On Air every Sunday and why they should be reading your blog.

I’ll do one better than that, I’ll let one of our readers tell you.

Seriously, between the three of us, we have over twenty years of blogging under our belts and none of us are too shy or selfish to offer our advice. We might not be the prettiest people on YouTube but we are entertaining and very informative. There’s truly not that many groups like ours that can say that.

And, of course, there’s our secret weapon – Sheryl Loch. You’ve said this before, Sheryl teaches some of the most useful things when it comes to video than anyone else we know. I’m just blown away at how up to date and knowledgeable she is when it comes to YouTube and Google Plus.

I’ll conclude with this… I’ve known both you and Sheryl for a long time and I can’t think of anyone else I trust and respect more. I also know my intentions are sincere so, the best reason for anyone to watch is we are trustworthy. We go out of our way to help others, at our expense, because we care. No one has to read in between the lines trying to see our ulterior motive because there isn’t one.
 

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Are You Offending People Away From Your Blogs Or Websites?

There’s a young lady from Australia whose Instagram page I used to follow named Sheridyn Fisher; that’s her picture to the right. I think she’s very attractive and for awhile I enjoyed pictures of her and her adventures, as well as her pets. She was once either a Playboy model or almost a Playboy model; I’m not quite sure how that all worked out but it proves that I’m not the only one who thought she was attractive.

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She’s also an entrepreneur of sorts. She has a line of swimwear, which figures, and along with modeling some of the images herself, she has other models who will show off some of her wares. That’s nothing to be mad at either I must admit. However, one of the models on one of the Instagram posts decided to share a feeling of hers that, in retrospect, was one of the most idiotic things anyone has ever said while pursuing a career. She said it made her sick to her stomach knowing some men over the age of 40 were looking at pictures of her and felt they were all dirty old men.

Dirty old men? For looking at some pictures that she willingly took to show off her body wearing swimwear? Dirty old men? You mean the early part of the major demographic of 35-54 year olds that most advertisers want to reach because they’re the ones that have the most money per capita to be able to afford to buy, well, maybe not women’s swimwear but calendars, magazines, or whatever else pretty women might be a part of?

Yeah, I was offended. Sheridyn didn’t say it but if she didn’t remove the comment before I saw it and she didn’t say anything in response to it either. Truthfully, I doubt she’s ever looked at her Instagram account because if she was anything like me and what I talked about earlier this year lamenting the lack of moderating comments on sites like YouTube and Instagram, allowing trolls and such to ruin the overall experience for everyone else. Sure, I do understand that if you get 5,000 comments it might be hard to get rid of some of them but something has to occur here and there, or so I feel.

I thought about this as it relates to blogging in general. Sometimes we take controversial opinions on something and that’s fine if we’re ready to deal with people not liking it. I do that from time to time when I’m in a state where I just have to express an opinion; nothing wrong with that and I think more people should think about doing something like that from time to time. Remember the saying “if you don’t stand for anything you’ll fall for everything”.

However, being controversial is something most people will do on purpose. What about doing things that might be subconsciously turning people away, things you really haven’t thought much about and one day wake up to the reality that you might be offending a part of your audience in some way that you’ve never thought about?

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Michael Porter via Compfight

A few nights ago I was checking out the videos of someone I’d just discovered on YouTube. I thought she was a breath of fresh air and decided to check out some of her older videos. I came across one called Apology and was drawn to watch it. In it, she apologized for some things she said regarding people on welfare because she didn’t think before she said it.

She was upset because a lot of people dumped on her after the presidential election because she decided to support the loser of the election (no, I ain’t saying his name lol) and, being one of those people who shoots from the hip, went over to the dark side because a lot of people on Twitter baited her for her open support there.

She ended up taking a major hit in subscribers and her popularity for awhile. It seems that even if you came from nothing and have made something of yourself that people don’t think that gives you credibility to start castigating everyone else because they need assistance from the government. I didn’t watch the video that offended so many people, but I did see that it got nearly 15,000 dislikes and only 1,100 likes and, being someone whose income comes only from YouTube, it seems that she got the message that she’d been insensitive; thus the apology.

Some people forgave her after a bit while others moved on, and she’s now back up around 300,000 subscribers or so and has moved on with life. But she’s kind of a celebrity and kind of ditzy cute; do you think your own business, website or blog could survive such a faux pas? Think about it; how often have you said something that came across as mean and been called on it? How many times have you written or posted something that someone else might see as sexist or racist when it wasn’t your intention to do so?

If you’re in the United States, all I have to say is Paula Deen for you to understand what I’m saying here. So many people were shocked by her admission, even though I’m not one of them. That she might have thoughts like she did & said the types of things she’s said didn’t surprise me in the least. But her public persona was something else, and it all came crashing down when this came out about her. And, if you watch the link above, which goes to a YouTube video I created about the situation, what you’ll see is that I believe her biggest mistake was waiting until someone else broke the news instead of being proactive.

Still, the point of this particular article is to ask you if you’re taking care to not be potentially controversial when you’re not trying to be, or not potentially being inflammatory and insensitive when you are trying to be. I left a lot of people in my dust during the 2008 presidential election, and a lot of people who lost their minds on Twitter before and after that election lost a lot of business and a lot of money as well.

There are many stories where a slip of the lip at the wrong time has cost someone their livelihood. How careful are you being in trying to make sure that person isn’t you?
 

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Blogging For The Right Reasons

In the video below you’ll find myself and the other members of the Hot Blog Tips Hangout crew discussing the topic title “Is Blogging Hard.” It turned out to be an interesting conversation because the responses received and given weren’t quite what anyone was expecting, and we had a lot of fun with it.

Donald Keene at home: Tokyo, 2002
Aurelio Asiain via Compfight

So, do you think blogging is hard? Based on the frequency of my posts lately one might conclude that I would say yes. Based on the number of blog posts I’ve written on this and other blogs some would think I’d say no. I’m not actually going to give my opinion on this post because I want to encourage you to watch the video (heck, I know someone will eventually watch it & break the news to everyone else lol).

What I will do is give 3 reasons why blogging is easy and three reasons why blogging is hard, and then I’ll sit back and wait to see how y’all respond to what I’ve had to say. And trust me, I could say way more, but this gets the conversation started.
 

Let’s start with the reasons why blogging is easy:
 

1. Anyone can do it. You don’t need a special degree. You don’t need fancy equipment. You don’t need a word processing program. Truthfully, if you want to only post videos to your blog or audio files you can, along with images, which means you don’t even have to write if you don’t want to.

2. It doesn’t have to cost you anything. There are lots of free blog forms out there that you can decide to hook up with and you’re good to go. I don’t like any of them I must admit but this isn’t about me.

3. You have no deadline or no schedule that’s mandatory to follow. You post whenever you want to post and that’s that.
 

Now, 3 reasons why it’s hard:
 

1. If you care what you’re writing about you want to get it right. This could mean editing time, time to find images, time to check your keywords, scheduling time, writing so many posts a week… lots of stress there.

2. Responding to comments. This must be hard for so many bloggers because more than half of the blogs I visit don’t show that the writers have taken any time to acknowledge the comments that people leave them. I’ve been thinking about creating a blog post that would continue to grow of blogs where the owners don’t respond to comments; then again, why bother since they probably don’t visit other blogs either?

3. Coming up with unique things to write about all the time. It can be hard for some people to think of something to write about for a week or two; think about how hard it could be to try to think of what to write about for six months, a year, two years or even 5 1/2 years as I’ve done with this blog (or 8 1/2 years as I’ve done with my business blog). At a certain point most people run out of regular ways to talk about whatever it is they know and may not have the knack for being creative enough to find new ways and new things to talk about.

There you are, six things to think about. I’m sure y’all will have more and I’d love to have you share your thoughts. In the meantime I offer the video below; trust me, it’s fun. 🙂
 


 

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5 Ways To Deal With Problems Positively

Let’s face this fact; things don’t always go the way we want them to go. It seems that at least once every day something goes awry in some fashion. Sometimes it’s a small thing, sometimes it’s a big thing. None of us are immune.

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Brett Davies via Compfight

Truthfully, there’s little that can be done about the big things. Someone you know expires, no matter how it happened, you’re not going to be prepared for it. Your house falls down because of an earthquake, who can be blamed for something like that? Major crises affect every person in different ways, and I’m not going to minimize how awful things like that can be.

Luckily, the majority of negative things that happen to us aren’t all that big a deal. Sometimes we make them big deals, but I’m of the opinion that’s on us. I know because I’ve run the gamut of both. When it seems like I’m in a bad pattern every little thing that happens feels like things are piling on and they’re never going to stop. When I’m in a good pattern things roll off my shoulders, and even if I get upset it doesn’t last long. That’s a better place to be; believe me.

In that vein I decided to share 5 little tips on how to deal with problems in a positive manner, and then I’ve included a video that I know some folks will say they liked but aren’t going to watch it; sigh… lol Hey, it is what it is right? These will be short; let’s get started:

1. When something happens, gauge how much you or someone else got hurt. If no one got physically hurt or received mortally bad news, then it’s not so bad.

2. Does it involve money? If so, is it immediate money or money at some further time? If you can afford it then what’s the problem other than a short term diminishing of your funds? If you can’t afford it worrying won’t help you figure out how to get the money if it’s something you really need.

3. Try to find a way to view situations as a story you can tell other people later. I do that one often, even if I’m a part of the story at the time. It’s hard to remain angry when your mind is on something else, such as trying to remember stuff.

4. Try to find something to smile about. Even serious events can sometimes be diffused with a smile here and there. You comfort people by trying to make them feel better, and if it works for them why can’t it work for you?

5. Remember that you’re never really alone. You always have someone to talk to, whether it’s a family member, a friend, or someone on social media. Goodness, one of the best things about a blog is being able to occasionally get your thoughts out into the open and then having your visitors help you mentally. There’s always someone around who wants to help you feel better; the world really is a much better place than the news makes it out to be sometimes.

That’s all I have… well, except for the video. Let me know your thoughts below; now enjoy my video, even if I’m not in it.
 


 

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A Big Danger With Free Themes

I’m someone who has always said that there’s nothing wrong with using free themes for your blog because I don’t believe there’s any inherent SEO benefit to using paid themes. Some claim that they’ve seen their income go skyhigh once they switched, but the overwhelming majority of people don’t make a single dime more than they did using a free theme.

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Jesslee Cuizon via Compfight

Overall, there’s no major difference between using free or paid except for three things.

One, if you use a free theme at some point you should think about changing up some things here and there so that it truly becomes yours. You’re going to want to do as much as you can to help yourself stand out and become unique if it’s connected with your business model.

Two, because you don’t always know who created the free theme, you might end up having to deal with issues of copyright and images, such as when I wrote this post about images and Getty Images and one of my clients.

Three… totally different matter. Last week a couple of my blogs were hacked, and if you follow that link you’ll find out what I did about it in case you ever go through it yourself. I have lots of protections on my blogs that I thought would take care of such things, and for the most part they worked. But it seems there’s a potential back door, and that’s what I’m warning you about.

Most people don’t ever take a look into the coding that makes up themes; I have. Back in the day I’d learned pretty quickly that often in the footer of some themes there’s some hidden code that links back to a website of the creator, and it’s not always a good thing.

For the first year or so of this blog my top search keywords had to do with credit cards, and I had no idea why because I’d never covered the topic on this blog. Then I learned about the code & footers and I took a look through the Appearance/Editor feature of the blog dashboard, only to discover that I couldn’t see anything in there. What I had to do was download it to my computer, open it up in my HTML program, and run some cool program at the time that revealed the link. Of course I removed it, even though the “license” said you could use the theme if you didn’t make any changes to the footer (oops), and I’ve never had that issue again.

However, what I’d also done back in the day for this blog and my main business blog is download a bunch of themes to test out, selected one, and then moved on with life. On the business blog I changed its theme 3 times before settling on the one it’s got now, but I never changed the theme on this blog once I selected it, though I have modified what it looks like.

The main thing I didn’t do, that ended up causing me major problems and something I’m going to warn you about? I never deleted any of those other themes that I wasn’t ever going to use. I never even thought about it because I never had a reason to look at the Appearance/Themes area ever again. On two of my other blogs I used the same theme I now use on my business blog, as it’s easy to modify and change up, and I modified the theme on my local blog before I ever uploaded it, so no worries there.

The hackers were able to exploit something in one theme on both my business blog and this one; that’s all it took to bring down all my blogs and all my websites, since they’re all on the same server. They didn’t get into anything; I’m not even sure if they were going to try. Lucky for me my hosting company, 1&1, caught the intrusion on their own and locked down all my sites, giving me time to fix things later the next day.

I’m betting that anyone with a blog more than 3 years old has something on it that they’ve forgotten about for years and not even tried to update. This is why there’s always someone warning you about making sure you update your blog software and your plugins, and of course recommending that you backup your blogs whenever possible.

In conclusion, as with anything that’s free you take your chances with free themes, though the same can be said for some paid themes. Your best bet is to go with newer free themes as they’ll have fewer files that can be exploited, and once you select a theme kill all the others you tested and try to make sure there’s nothing hidden in the footer except maybe a link directly to the person who created it. In that regard I don’t mind giving credit where credit is due, as long as there wasn’t anything sneaky in there.
 

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